Post Marathon Recovery
When gearing up for my first marathon I was pretty nervous about how I would feel after and how my body would respond to running a 26.2 mile race. You hear all sorts of stories, from good to bad. From I couldn't walk, to stress fractures, chaffing, blisters, blood.
There are a host of variables that can affect your marathon recovery, like the intensity of the race, the elements, your health, and training season. In fact, post-race recovery is like reaching into a bag of jelly beans, you never know what you’re going to get. Every recovery is different.
But that said, there are different strategies you can do that will aid in the speed of recovery. These are ones I applied, and to be honest, I 100% back them because my recovery was very fast.
Just keep walking. Cross the finish line, get your medal, grab food and water, have your picture taken, and keep walking. Many runners first instinct may be to drop to your knees and be grateful that you’ve finished, but that isn’t the best way to go. Think about it: You’ve just asked your body to run for 26.2 miles. It’s still in marathon mode when you finish and is in great need of a transition phase. You don't want your muscles to instantly cease up. Walk at least 10 to 15 minutes. In my case, I never sat right away, and it was about a 15 minute walk back to the hotel.
Eat, drink, and be happy. Eat a small snack within the first 30-60 minutes post-race. Post runs typically give some food immediately after, take advantage of that. Recently I did bone broth and a banana immediately after. Post-race is more about getting in about 200-300 easily digested calories from carbohydrates and protein to maintain blood sugar levels, replenish muscle glycogen, and repair muscle tissue. Once your appetite returns about an 1.5-2 hours later enjoy a well balanced, well deserved meal. Then continue to snack on balanced foods and meals as well as sipping fluids all throughout the day to re-hydrate.
Get a leg up. Invest five to ten minutes in putting your legs up on the wall. It refreshes circulation and gently stretches the legs. Also wearing compression tights will help with circulation to the legs.
Stretch and roll. Wait at least a couple hours after the race to stretch and foam roll. But then by all means stretch stretch stretch!!! You won't want to, but try to.
Give yourself a break / walk it out. Your body has been through a tough season of training and 26.2 miles in race mode on the roads is a big deal. Over the next couple days, the best way to recover is to not aggravate it by going out for a run the next day. Take the next couple of days to celebrate, and do some light walking and stretching.